There was once a mentor of mine who said something very profound to me:
“Only YOU are to blame for the success and failure in your career.”
This threw me back as I was told this after a very bad run of very unqualitifed managers for which I was looking for advice on how to deal with the frustration over. Not venting in an extremely negative sence, but from an avenue that I was trying to move forward and was held back or detered from making any sort of progress.
Over the years, I have seen this again and again. After thinking deeply about it, the mentor was absolutely right. I suppose it is human nature, but everyone in the food change of any organization ultimately is out for themselves driven by a personal agenda for their own careers. The appearance of caring or assisting anyone else in their growth is something that is self-defeating to that individual. This is no more true that the Manager who has skilled and talented individuals under their charge.
Why would anyone want to further the career of a self-motivated subordinate with more drive, determination and understanding of the field than they? If you are the manager reaping the beneifits of the performance of your staff, isn’t it better for your own selfish needs to keep them where they are to make your managerial skills appear better than they may actually be? Many would either argue against this point or claim it exists with no solution to provide.
I was once naieve enough to think that managers would take care of my goals, guide my career in the right direction, when more often than not, their own self-serving interests usually came before my own growth under the guise of some hidden organizational strategy. This is a very oppressive feeling and one that usually results in talented people becoming disgruntaled employees who do nothing but bitch, groan and moan as if the world is out to get them (I know, I used to be like this); or simply give up and stop caring. When it breaches the latter, it is usually too late for any good to come out of the situation and valuable bridges are burnt beyond repair.
The only other alternative is to walk a very political fine-line to ensure that YOU take responsibilify for your own career. You push for what you believe in, what you feel is the right thing to do and with every step in your career, keep an open mind for knowledge of not just how to manage, but how to become a GOOD manager. By politically, I mean that you should always escalate good ideas, then see what transpires. If you are told to stand down, wait, or that it will never work, then you know you have to start to take different, creative approaches to getting things done.
In the end, if you understand what your role is in an organziation, understand what your contribution provides to the business (read, not your direct management,) believe that the business as a whole will gain value, then you should seriously consider not sacrificing your integrity and personal values to accomodate the short-sightedness of others. However, if you do take that path, also be prepared to structure an exit strategy just in case those deaf ears are really deaf ears behind concrete walls resting on a foundation of limitations so deep that they will never be swayed.
It is always good to hold out hope that there are individuals who do care about you, your career and assisting you in growing within an organization, unfortunately, it has been my experience that this is not always the case. You wake up every morning ready to make change, then are quickly deflated by the seemingly insurmountable challenges put before you in getting anything done, not by the work, but by management.
This brings to mind the anology of the beaten dog. The one that is abused and keeps coming back for more out of a false sence of loyalty. At least the dog has an excuse, a 5-second short-term memory, wonder what my excuse is? In short, you have to take charge of YOUR career, in its contribution to the organization, customer or whatever, and more importantly, its value. In doing so, the sky holds no limits for what you can achieve and your results will begin to propel your career regardless of who is managing you.